Voters in Vermont pride themselves on the positive tone in even their most bitterly fought elections. But the governor’s race is bucking that trend this year thanks to out-of-state political juggernauts that are transforming the typically low-key contest into a record-breaking brawl.
“It’s not our way,” said Tom Aloisi, a 51-year-old Vermont native, who said voters are used to seeing such antics in neighboring New Hampshire, a battleground state that attracts all presidential contenders.
This year, normally quiet Vermont has had more than twice as much spent on TV advertising for the governor’s race between Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott and Democrat Sue Minter than it had for the entire election cycles in 2012 and 2014. Much of that is driven by the Republican Governors Association and its Democratic counterpart, who are operating under the innocuous names A Stronger Vermont and Our Vermont, respectively, to tear down their opponents with TV ads.
The dynamic in tiny Vermont echoes what’s occurring around the nation, where tight gubernatorial races and outside groups are fueling increased spending on state political ads.
This year, as states elect 12 governors, fill scores of other offices and several thousand legislative seats, television ad spending on state races has outpaced the last comparable election at this point, even when adjusted for inflation. The more than $148 million spent so far this year dwarfs the $83 million spent in the same period in 2012, according to data from media tracker Kantar Media/CMAG.
The heated governors’ races account for more than half of all state political advertising this year. And independent groups are playing a larger role, sponsoring 23 percent of all ads in 2016, compared with 18 percent in 2012.